Gates arrest: What are the odds?

July 24, 2009


Let’s see.  Louis Gates, a senior citizen, renowned professor at Harvard, walking with a cane, is arrested by the Cambridge police in his own home, for…shouting at a cop?  He violated the first rule of encountering the police force:  never antagonize an officer.  Still, what are the odds he would have been arrested if he hadn’t been black?  Much smaller, I’d say, but not zero!

White makes right?

July 3, 2009


The recent court case reversing the lower court decision on a discrimination suit by New Haven firemen got me thinking.  The white firemen claim that they were unfairly denied promotions when the department changed the exam and readministered it, hoping to get more minority-group officers in place.  It seems to me that their case is based on the assumption that they have a right to be promoted, which was, I believe, the gist of Justice Ginzburg’s dissent.

Let’s see…a racially and ethnically diverse city, New Haven, decides that it should have a fire department that reflects its citizenry.  Okay.  They have an all-white department, so they start recruiting non-white candidates.  Okay.  They have no success, so they say, “We are not getting the result we want.  We have to change our recruiting policies.”  Nobody has a problem with that.

So they change, and the nature of the firefighting force changes.  But all the captains are white.  They feel they have a qualified pool of minority firemen, but none of them pass the test.  So they change the test.  The white firemen sue.

There seems to be an assumption current that the test was “dumbed down.”  I don’t think any evidence for that was presented.  The only other reason to challenge the action of the department is if you support the notion that the firemen who first passed the test have a right to be promoted.  Maybe there is a legal-contractual issue here, e.g., it is not allowed to refuse promotion once the test is passed, etc., but I don’t think so.  Why do they have any more of a right than any other group in the department?  Isn’t the policy of the department more important?

It reminds me of the suits brought by white students against universities when they fail to gain admission to a prestigious law or medical school.  The claim is that a qualified white student was refused to offer a seat to a non-white person.  The implication is that the minority student was not qualified, often simply because his or her SAT scores were lower.  (How the one-to-one association between who is refused and who is admitted is made is unclear to me!)  Here again, the assumption is that the white student has the right to a seat that has been stolen.  This is presumptuous.

We Federales!

December 19, 2005

“We don’t need no stinkin’ warrant!”
No need for a warrant if you want to listen in on a dangerous person here in the USA – we are the Federal Government! Whatever happened to those conservatives I used to hear about, the ones who distrust government and don’t want it to have too much power over individuals? “Don’t ya’ know, there’s a war on, kid!”

Last I heard, the court that was set up to review requests for domestic surveillance virtually never refuses to grant the warrant, and even if a rush job is needed, the court will grant them retroactively! So, in our struggle with our enemies, can’t we live with that little bit of judicial review, so that when the dust in the war on terror settles, our government doesn’t take it into its head to start spying on people whom it just happens not to like? They do do that sort of thing, you know.

As for the image above, I owe this to one of the more amusing and bizarre websites I’ve come across. Take a look at Joe’s Painted Soldiers.